Originally Published: Yahoo! Sports
Chris Cwik, Big League Stew
For the first time in over 50 years, a professional baseball team will have multiple women in its starting lineup. The Sonoma Stompers, an independent league team in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, will sign and start two women prior to Friday’s game.
The Stompers put out a release Tuesday announcing the club had worked with Francis Ford Coppola’s Virginia Dare Winery “in an effort to promote the recruitment, development and advancement of women in baseball.”
On Wednesday, the team made it official, signing 17-year-old outfielder/pitcher Kelsie Whitmore. The team is also signing 25-year-old pitcher/infielder Stacy Piagno. Both players will be in the starting lineup when the team takes the field Friday against the San Rafael Pacifics.
Whitmore recently graduated from Temecula Valley High School, and has a softball scholarship to Cal State Fullerton next year. Piagno played softball at the University of Tampa, but more recently helped the United States national baseball team capture the gold medal in the 2015 Pan Am Games. During the tournament, Piagno threw a no-hitter against Puerto Rico.
Both players will play for Team USA in the 2016 Women’s Baseball World Cup, according to the Stompers.
With the signing, the Stompers will become the first baseman team since the 1950s to have multiple women on a team. Toni Stone, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson and Constance Morgan all played beside men in the Negro Leagues, according to the release.
Breaking new ground is familiar for the Stompers. Last season, Stompers pitcher Sean Conroy became the first openly gay active baseball player. Conroy came out just before the team celebrated Pride Night, started that game and tossed a complete-game shutout.
While it’s not common, it is possible for players in the Pacific League to get signed by major-league clubs. In May, the Milwaukee Brewers signed pitcher Santos Saldivar. Saldivar pitched for the Stompers during the 2015 and was featured in the book “The Only Rule is it Has to Work,” written by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller.
Whether or not this opportunity leads to the first woman playing in the majors remains to be seen. But the signings of Whitmore and Piagno seem like a significant step as far as that’s concerned. No matter what happens, Friday should be a historic day for baseball.